How do you make your own beer or wine? Is it hard to do?
When I first started brewing, one of the most encouraging phrases I heard along the way was "If you can boil water, you can make your own beer." And to this day, whenever I get asked by someone, "How hard is it to make beer or wine?" I immediately repeat that phrase and the whole mood lightens. It's a wonderful thing.
It's a wonderful thing because it's true--with modern technology and many reputable companies making extracts and ingredients more widely available, it is literally just that easy--if you can boil water and stir things into it and let them boil, you can make delicious beer at home for a fraction of the cost of store bought. And it's even easier to make wine at home.
Every beer and wine kit we sell comes with very detailed instructions that will assist you every step of the way. And if you ever have any questions--we're here to help.
Can I really save money making beer and wine at home?
Absolutely. You can make excellent beer for around $0.50 a bottle. And you can spend even less than that if you want and still make great beer. Heck--you could spend a lot more and create a masterpiece with the finest, most expensive ingredients in the world and still probably be under the cost of store bought beers.
With wine, it's the same scenario. You can make wonderful wines, in pretty much any style you could think of, for about $2.00 - $4.00 a bottle.
And when you think of how much beer and wine you get from a single batch, you'll be even happier. A typical batch of beer is 5 US gallons (about 50-55 12oz bottles) and a typical batch of wine is around 6 US gallons (about 30 750ml wine bottles). Pretty good, eh?
What all do I need to get to start brewing or making wine?
This is really a matter of personal preference and budget, as you can get everything you could ever need all at once, or start with a smaller kit and add on accessories and equipment as you need them. The most common route is to start with a basic or deluxe equipment kit and then add other components that will either make your brew day easier or help with other processes. All the equipment kits we carry will allow you to make a batch of beer or wine, but may not have all the components that you personally want for your brew day. Some things just make your brew day go faster (such as auto-siphons, sparge plumbing, digital thermometers, propane burners, beer/wine filters, keg setups, etc.) however they're not absolutely essential to making a batch. If you're looking to start out well equipped and within a modest budget, take a look at our equipment kits and accessory bundles. They're a great place to start.
Some folks will recommend getting everything all at once and some folks will recommend starting with the bare bones and adding only what you need. The choice is ultimately up to you and your budget. Please come in to the store and ask us for help deciding--we'll get you set up the way you want and won't sell you things you don't need. That's no way to do business.
I've had relatives in the past make beer at home, and it exploded or tasted absolutely terrible...
I think we've all heard horror stories about friends and family adventuring into home brewing without really knowing what they were doing or what to expect...
First off, there have been leaps and bounds over the past 10 or so years in the manufacturing of malt extracts and home brewing equipment. We now have the luxury of having some of the best and freshest ingredients in the world at our fingertips--so making beer these days is a delightful experience. In addition, there is a lot more education going on, and most every kit sold in the world today comes with detailed instructions written particularly for that kit. As long as the recipe is followed and proper brewing conditions are maintained (temperature, sanitation, etc.) the likelihood a batch will be bad is fairly slim.
Every once in a while, some beers do ferment very quickly and create large amounts of foam. So, the occasional airlock or bucket lid might pop out or off (this is called a blow-out). With proper education will come the comfort of knowing exactly what you should do in the event of a blow-out and what to do to minimize or prevent one in the future. They are an inevitability though--so as long as you stay smart about it, they're really not too big of a hassle.
Do you ship internationally?
For the most part, yes, we will try to ship to your location, but due to shipper restrictions, we are unable to ship certain items internationally. Things such as acids, Blichmann products, corrosive chemicals, certain electronic items, certain agricultural items (such as rhizomes), etc. are unable to be shipped due to the inability for the product to go on an airplane, agricultural product restrictions (think of how you can't just bring your dog or random fruit home with you while on vacation), or other factors that prohibit us from shipping the items. If you are wanting to place an order, but do not know for sure if your items can be shipped, please email us what you would like to order through our Contact Us form, and we will get back to you if we will be able to ship it to you or not. Similarly, we cannot guarantee certain products will arrive safely and usable (like liquid yeasts, crushed grains, etc.) so again--please contact us before placing an order to be shipped internationally. It should be noted that BIY does not pay customs or duties on international shipments. Customs/duties are the sole responsibility of the person who placed the order.
I want to learn more about brewing and wine making, but don't want to jump in quite yet. What should I do?
I would highly recommend reading about brewing and wine making and familiarizing yourself with the processes and procedures before making a batch. There are a myriad of wonderful books out there that start at the very beginning and break down ingredients, processes, how to properly sanitize, what certain ingredients will do what, etc. Some even go so far as to break down the process chemically, so you can know exactly what is going on during your brew day on the molecular level! The glorious part about brewing and wine making is that you will ALWAYS learn something new with each and every batch.
We carry a great selection of books in our store--please give them a look by clicking here or by visiting one of our stores in Marion or North Liberty.
Another great resource is YouTube. There you can watch entire brewing sessions and much, much more. Joe (me, the owner of BIY Homebrew Supply) has made an extensive line of videos on home brewing on his channel TerpsichoreanKid. Definitely check out the channel and subscribe to keep up with all the latest videos and my brewing adventures!
Here's one of my latest videos where I make a great beer from an extract kit at home. This is just one of over 170 videos I have available! Check them all out!